By Shawn Perry
Last month, I had the good fortune of meeting a number of indie creators at Hartford Comic-Con who inspired me to read more indie comics. Since then, I have been continually impressed by this contingent of page-turning storylines and impressive artwork. The art of the creative process is my greatest passion so getting to meet with people who have turned their passion for comics into something tangible was an inspiration. What follows are my thoughts on some of the great indie comics I have read recently and if you get the chance to read any of them you will understand why these creators took the plunge.
As with any other medium of storytelling, anyone can talk about their passion for comics and their desire to make them…but it takes a special type of personal strength to pursue those dreams and make them reality. As Johnathan Hickman, writer of many mainstream and creator-owned properties including the recently-optioned Pax Romona, said in a recent interview with Paste of his humble beginnings with comic book storytelling:
It is not an exaggeration that one time we got a royalty check for Pax Romana, and my wife opened the envelope and started crying. You're gambling on yourself, and that's something that I'm always willing to do. If you're a creative person who believes in himself, and if you're willing to work, to put in the hours — really put in the hours, not just sit at your desk surfing the Internet coming up with reasons not to work — you are on the right path.
Ever since meeting those creators at HCC I have taken it upon myself to read more indie comics and thus far I have been continually impressed. While the prohibitive cost of printing might make it hard for these creators to have wide distribution or print new issues regularly it is nothing short of inspiring to read these books because they are a testament to the indomitable spirit of their creators.
Plus by comic book standards they are pretty darn affordable.
What follows are my thoughts on a few of the books I have read recently by indie creators. If you get the chance to read any of them you will understand what drives these creators forward, or as Forever Winter creator Joel Lolar said at Hartford Comic-Con:
Having the ability to tell a story that I want to tell without anybody interfering and getting to put something that I am so proud of out there has been a lot of fun. It's a story I've been working on since I was at the Joe Kubert School in 2003 and every time I finish an issue it's so rewarding.
Forever Winter is the work of Joel Lolar and features additional artwork by Jacob Rhodes, Rian Miller and Jesse Munoz of Stockpile Comics. The first issue paints a dark portrait of post-apocalyptic Boston that is entrenched in, as you might have guessed, a never-ending winter. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and not just because the art work is glorious but because there are just not a lot of comics set in Urban New England and it is eerily fascinating to see someone's dystopian vision take place in your own backyard. Oh and did I mention that the art is glorious, well even if I did, Lolar brings this story to life with a dark and cinematic touch that is both haunting and intimate. The first issue follows a calloused loner named James as he seeks revenge for his father's death in a very grim future in which there are no zombies or evil spirits but just humans and the horrible things they do to each other when it gets cold enough.
The Ascendant is the product of Wayward Raven Studios and is written by Mark C. Frankel with art by Christopher Hanchey. This adventure story follows Cail, a curiously agnostic demon-spawn of hell, who is sworn to protect the world from other demons. He has a mysterious past and through the first two issues we learn little about him other than that his red ledger is pretty, well, red. Frankel's dialogue is a bit conceptual here but really shines as the story unfolds and explores the great character dynamic between Cail and Faustus, an aging man that sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and paid a great price. The plot through the first two issues is appropriately mysterious as this world is being built but there are enough sword fights with succubus and dry humor to keep it all very entertaining. Along with Frankel, Manchey brings this dark world to life with stark imagery and in vibrant color with help from Rich Cardoso and Cara Kelley.
Signed is also a product of Wayward Raven Studios and is written Frankel and Joshua L.A. Jones. The first issue introduces a talent agent named CeeCee that can travel through space and time through portals, one moment she investigates the disappearance of a client in New York City and the next she is bathing next to a busty blonde goddess named Perse in what looks like Ancient Greece. The book appears to contain an idealist trend in body types that I doubt anyone who reads it will mind. The first issue is a fast-paced read that introduces an intriguing sci-fi world complete with strong dialogue, witty humor and a lot of questions. It also features eye-catching art by Wayne Brown with colors by Martin Silva and lettering by Cara Kelley. The first issues ends just as the plot starts to really thicken so I won't spoil anything here but the second issue was released just this past week so I suggest picking them both up the next chance you get.
How I Made the World is written by Kat Plourde and illustrated by Randy Michaels. The story follows Liz as she navigates life as a sophomore in college with dry humor, strong friendships and a desire to find herself. That might sound familiar but this book is not at all cliché and personally I loved the first issue. Plourde's frank and grounded portrayal of the meandering realm of burgeoning adulthood that is college – but in my experience goes on well into your twenties – is both accurate and insightful. In her debut Liz battles insecurity, oyster cravings, sleep deprivation and midterms in a sculpting class run by a professor who may or may not be permanently stoned. Plourde's characterization of Liz is witty and smart while Michaels provides a vibrant rendering of her world that is full of life and suits the tone of the book perfectly. Overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone out there still striving to 'be here now' or get a firm grip on what Robert Frost was yammering about because it is a significant world that Plourde and Michaels are building and I can't wait to see where it goes next. Plus the ingenious cover is worth the cost alone.
In addition to these books, I recently read the first three issues of Return to Rander by Tony Sedani and I invite you to learn more about that series in my review. Lastly, if any of you out there in bleeder-land has any recommendations for future editions of Indie Spotlight please send me an email [Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com].
Shawn Perry is a comic book and film enthusiast striving to be here now. He currently resides in East Hartford, Connecticut. Tweet him @thesperry and feel free to email at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.